Day 109 – All change (again)

Another address from the President at short notice yesterday evening and it’s all change again for the rules and regulations of Level 3 Lockdown. Or Level 3 Enhanced or Advanced or Plus or Plus Plus (which makes everything better). I’m a bit lost as to exactly where we are now.

I think we’re all a bit lost as to exactly where we are now.

What changed last night, then?

Masks became mandatory in public places. There are now a lot more rules and detail about that, replacing the previous:

A person must when in a public place, wear a cloth face mask or a homemade item that covers the nose and mouth, or another appropriate item to cover the nose and mouth.

Which did kind of suggest that masks were mandatory when in public places.
Good. There’s plenty of evidence that this will slow the spread of the virus – especially in indoor space (which aren’t good places to be anyway right now, remember?)

The sale of alcohol got banned again. Annoying, disruptive, damaging to the local economy, but sadly understandable, given the current pressure on our healthcare systems. And yes, it does feel like the whole class is being punished because a couple of kids wouldn’t stop talking, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. Trying to put those two children on the naughty step has not worked, so we all have to suffer. Once again, the black market will open up, shebeens won’t be adequately policed and the law will instead choose to crack down on someone with a six-pack of Savannah in his car boot. It’s all part of the dysfunctional society in which we live.

A new curfew 2100-0400. It seems like that those two kids who ignored the teacher and kept chatting also do it mainly at night. Alcohol and late nights are apparently the thing and time that there is most pressure on hospitals – at least from a unnecessary admissions point of view. So – no more booze and no more late nights. Not that the rest of the class were out and about much anyway.

Taxis can now have 100% occupancy for short distance trips. As long as their passengers wear masks (as above) and as long as the taxis have their windows open.

Eish… Taxis… taxis… taxis… The transport lifeline of low income South Africans.
The bane of every other road users’ life.
Let me take you through the folly of these regulations in no particular order.

100% occupancy. This in the same week that it was revealed that having middle seats empty on planes halved the risk of catching coronavirus. 100% occupancy in taxis will only increase the chance of passengers catching Covid-19 on their taxi journey. However: honestly, given the infamous disregard for the law amongst SA taxi drivers, it’s unlikely that they were sticking to the previous 70% rule anyway.
Opening windows. I can be pretty sure that the windows on taxis will not be opened during journeys in winter. It’s either freezing cold, soaking wet or (and yes, actually at the moment) both. Opening the windows may seem like a silly thing, but ventilation is key in preventing the spread of respiratory illness. It’s one simple way of reducing the spread of TB. However: honestly, given the lack of anyone opening taxi windows to “Stop TB” and yes, given the infamous disregard for the law amongst SA taxi drivers, it’s unlikely that any windows will be opened.
Wearing masks. This one is down to the passengers, because they sit behind the driver and once they are on board, s/he can’t see them. Given the adherence to the mask rules so far, and adding that there is no apparent punishment for the passenger – only for the driver, I can’t see this one working out either.

So, while fully understanding the importance of the minibus taxi industry for many South Africans, taxi use will merely lead to more infections and provide an excellent vector for the virus to spread further, both due to the very nature of the rules, and the fact that any mitigating regulations are likely to be ignored.

We can still go to church, to cinemas and the theatre, but only if there are fewer than 50 of us there. We can pop in to the casino or restaurant, as long as they make sure it’s not more than 50% full. But we can’t go and see our families in their homes. I don’t agree with half of this. Probably not the half you think though.
Let me explain it from a couple of places.

I have mentioned before that just because something is permitted, it doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea. And being inside with other people is not a good idea at the moment.

It’s almost as if that first line of the lockdown regulations:

You must remain at home at all times…

was put there for a good reason.

I would strongly advise against going to cinemas, theatres, casinos and restaurants right now. But at least if you do (and assuming that they are following regulations, which many/most seem to be), you will be screened on entry and have your details recorded, so 1. things are controlled and infection risk is reduced, and 2. if there is a problem, they can get back in touch with you and tell you that you may have been exposed.
I wouldn’t be visiting family and friends (especially older family and friends) even if it were allowed right now. Really, infecting relatives because the little asymptomatic transmission fairy was hitching a ride on your shoulder is not a good look.
Let’s be honest, many people have been going round to see their families and visit friends, been meeting in groups to exercise, and generally ignoring regulations since lockdown began. And who of them is going to then obey the rules about not going out if you are feeling under the weather?
And there are no screening precautions in place at Ouma and Oupa’s place.

There are far too many stories about people getting sick because they have done silly things.

So don’t go out if you can possibly avoid it: and you really can avoid cinemas, theatres, casinos, restaurants and Aunt Mary’s. You can.

So in conclusion, once again, if you take a step back and look through neutral-coloured spectacles, the government is trying to balance the dangers of the virus and the dangers of a collapsing economy. And they are trying to follow best practice as far as limiting potential exposure and protecting people – in words at least.
Are they doing it very well? Not really.

They’re in a no win situation. And they’re not winning.

Will people continue to break the rules as and when they see fit? Damn straight.
Will any of this be adequately, fairly and correctly policed? Nope.
Will we see the black market rise again for booze and continue for cigarettes? Of course.

This is not a pretty picture. But then global pandemics rarely seem to paint those.

 

LoL Private Navy (er… not)

Found this, via here and here, which details alleged plans afoot by insurers Lloyds of London and some big players in the shipping industry to set up what amounts to, but… er… obviously isn’t, a private navy.

Under the plan, which has been developed over two years, a non-profit association involving private and public sector members would be set up. It would control a fleet of 18 vessels, each with a fixed gun position and an armed crew authorised to engage the pirates in battle.
Each vessel would carry eight armed security personnel and four additional crew as well as inflatable speedboats, known as “Ribs”, which could be dispatched into combat if the tankers they were protecting came under attack.
Although it would be managed separately, the fleet would be under the operational control of the relevant national navy and the crew would have to conform to international rules on combat and engagement.

This is a tad more hardcore than the recent plan to dazzle pirates with a laser, which we blogged on 6000 miles… earlier this year and indicates the seriousness with which the insurance business views the continuing problems off Somalia.

Success for the venture, which has tried to shun the “private navy” tag, would mark a gear change in international efforts to clamp down on piracy. Despite a successful recent intervention by the Royal Navy, the pirates have escalated their activities sharply in the past fortnight, seizing an oil tanker and its 125 million-pound cargo and killing two of its Filipino crew.

All of which makes me wonder whether we’re not in for something similar in South Africa. True, we don’t have pirates in our waters¬†costing the local insurers billions each year, but we do have minibus taxis on our roads and they really do the same job: crashing into the side of other vessels, terrorising the occupants and… costing the local insurers billions each year.

So do we need our own private-navy-that’s-not-really-a-private-navy on the roads? Some would say that we already have one in the Police service, but – in the same way as the traditional navies off the coast of Somalia – they’re pretty ineffectual at stopping the pirates… er… taxis. And I don’t think that there would be any shortage of volunteers ready, willing and able to sign up for the SA Private Road Navy.

My best suggestion is that you cut out the middleman and contact Outsurance, since they seem to like off the wall, road-based thinking. Tell them I sent you and you want to join their navy.

Let me know how you get on.